Why I Read It: I'm a sucker for any baseball bio...even one by a Met.
Summary: A deep dive on the author's teammates.
My Thoughts: All kidding aside about the Mets, I always respected Ron Darling for his accomplishments on the field. I had never looked deeply, though, at his pre-pro ball life. Thankfully, this book cleared up a lot of that for me.
I never connected him to Massachusetts. Broadcasters were always quick to point out that he was born in Hawaii when he played, as that made him seem exotic. But he grew up in the Worcester area, in a little town I've visited on a few occasions. His youthful memories of sports heroes are the same as mine. No matter what story he tells, he has a parallel story that relates back to the Red Sox. And so, it was odd that to get his World Series ring, he had to beat the team of his childhood heroes.
But that, he explains, is baseball. Coddled and nurtured on the way up, all the way through Yale, he had no idea what to expect when he hit the minors, and was rudely awakened to the fact that baseball is at its heart a business, where players are commodities that drive wins and losses, and ultimately gate receipts and other sources of revenue for billionaires. Hometown allegiances mean nothing in the end.
He took a fun approach to this book. He wanted it to be about his teammates, so he sought out a complete database of all of them. He wanted it to show interconnection, like the never-ending seam of 108 stitches that cover a baseball. He links players to stories from different eras, showing how some come around again through time. He tries to show us how transient and, quite frankly, crazy, the life of a ball player can be. There are so many moving parts, from players who get signed, traded and released, to coaches who pop from organization to organization and played with players from the previous generation, and were coached by the one before that.
There are a lot of laughs in this book, as well as some contrition. Darling is a good man, and regrets the way he treated certain teammates in certain moments. He chalks it up to the idiocy of youth, but doesn't use it an excuse.
My one regret about the book is that there is an "in my day" moment at the end of the book, something I just wish he'd avoided altogether. Yes, the game is changing; every American sports fan knows that. But that, too, is baseball. I'll betcha Ty Cobb hated watching Babe Ruth smash all his home runs, But evolution is evolution. It happens everywhere, all the time. Baseball will continue to change, sometimes in an accelerated fashion, sometimes slowly. Let it ride, Ron.
So, think '80s Mets, '90s A's, New York City, broadcasting and growing up a Red Sox fan, and you have the basis for a great book.